Pushing Beyond Pure Watercolor

Greek artist George Politis plays with a variety of watermedia and techniques in this extraordinary painting tutorial.

George Politis works mostly in pure watercolor, but every so often he likes to stretch his creative wings. He recently led a watercolor class through six simple steps for combining watercolor paint, fluid acrylics, and acrylic inks—pouring, collaging, stenciling, and mark-making to his heart’s content. And now he’s sharing his exciting process with us!

Mixing Media and Techniques

By George Politis

I like to push the limits of watercolor. I experiment and look for creative ways to express my ideas, feelings, and responses to what I see around me. Although most of my work is still in pure watercolor, I don’t restrict myself to it. Instead, I use collage, acrylic inks, gouache, gesso—anything that I think might help me produce a strong, interesting painting.

watercolor demo
Step 1

Step 1: I painted this piece as a demo in a workshop I gave in Torres Vedras, Portugal, in the summer of 2017. Working intuitively, I started by pouring washes and applying a few layers with a flat brush to create a dynamic underpainting. I then collaged tissue paper and newspaper shapes to the surface using acrylic matte medium, and stenciled some letters and shapes using white acrylic paint.

watercolor demo
Step 2
watercolor demo
Step 3

Steps 2 and 3: I then gradually darkened the colors and tried to create some depth. 
I work (as most watercolorists do) from light to dark, so the first layers have more water in the mixtures. I gradually use more paint and less water as I move through the layers of color.

watercolor demo
Step 4

Step 4: I applied white acrylic with a roller and a brush to cover parts of the painting. I let some of the previously painted area and various textures show through.

watercolor demo
Step 5

Step 5: I used several photo references to make a sketch of a protester, which I then cut out to use as a stencil. I applied black acrylic ink over the stencil, creating interesting positive and negative shapes that would define the figure. Then I added some red to the surface to suggest the protester’s passion and pain.

watercolor demo
Final Step: “Stand up for …” (15 x 22 in.)

Final Step: I did some more stenciling, darkened some values to create greater contrast, and added some calligraphic marks to finish Stand up for… (15 x 22 in.).

Artist’s Toolkit:
  • Daniel Smith Watercolors
  • Golden Fluid Acrylics
  • Schmincke and FW Acrylic Inks

George Politis is an internationally acclaimed artist. He’ll be conducting workshops in the United States, Greece, France, Belgium, and Japan in 2018.

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